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Apple’s Mini DisplayPort to become a part of DisplayPort 1.2 specification

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Apple's Mini DisplayPort to become a part of DisplayPort 1.2 specification

Chicago (IL) – Apple’s gamble with Mini DisplayPort, the company’s miniaturized
variant of an industry-standard DisplayPort interconnect, has paid off. The VESA organization said last week at CES
the upcoming DisplayPort 1.2 specification will also include
Apple’s Mini DisplayPort variant in its standard. This not only means third-parties
like notebook vendors will likely deploy Mini DisplayPorts due to its
smaller footprint compared to the full-size DisplayPort connector, but it will also
bring the same set of new technologies to both DisplayPort and the Mini
variant – most notably 3D stereoscopic HD video, 5.Gbps of bandwidth
(for extremely high resolutions) and the support for up to four chained displays on a
single link.


A lot is expected of the upcoming DisplayPort (DP) 1.2
specification, scheduled for mid-2009. Besides phasing out mutually incompatible
connections like VEGA, DVI, HDMI and others, DP 1.2 is expected to
bring the bells and whistles which cater to the latest advances in graphics technology, including things like stereoscopic 3D support for three-dimensional full HD video which is viewable through dedicated glasses. The available bandwidth will increase to 5.4Gbps (675 MB/s) to enable refresh rates exceeding 120Hz, while upping maximum resolution of a
single display from current 2560×1600 provided by DP 1.1 specification to
3840×2160 at 30-bit color depth with one billion colors with DP 1.2
revision.

Finally, DP 1.2 will be able to drive two 2560×1600 displays –
like Apple’s 30-inch Cinema Display, or up to four
1920×1200 (full HD) displays on a single link. This ability will not come by means of a four-way split cable but, more conveniently, by hooking up displays into a chain with one connected to the other. Coupled to a powerful graphics card,
DP 1.2 will finally make the task of connecting multiple displays to a single port on the graphics card a reality.

Inclusion of Apple’s royalty-free Mini DisplayPort (MDP) into the DP 1.2 specification
also opens door to a much wider acceptance of the miniaturized
connector that has so far only been used in Apple’s Mac notebooks and
the latest 24-inch LED-backlit Cinema Display. Other notebook vendors besides Apple are expected to bring forth MDP-enabled products due to its smaller footprint, an important feature in notebooks where every inch
matters. Finally, inclusion of MDP in DP 1.2 specification will ensure that DP 1.2 and MDP 1.2 hardware work together without a hitch.

Another consequence of MDP 1.2 ratification is there will be third-party converter boxes which enable DP- or MDP-enabled
devices to connect to aging HDMI and DVI displays, like Apple’s existing $99
Mini DisplayPort to dual-link DVI adapter which enables owners of
unibody MacBooks to connect their notebook to the 30-inch Cinema
Display that still sports DVI.

As TG Daily explained
in detail, DP is a new royalty-free digital display interconnect
standard put forth by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA). It is being pushed by Nvidia, AMD
and Dell, which offer DP video cards and monitors. HP, Philips,
Samsung, Lenovo, Nvidia, Intel, Microsoft and others have all pledged to
support DP. Although Apple supports DP too, the company opted
for its own miniaturized version they dubbed Mini DisplayPort for unibody
Macbooks, defending the move with limited space and user convenience.

Measured at just one tenth the size of a full-sized DVI connector, MDP slides easily into place like a USB connection. Also, it doesn’t require screws to secure itself and its pins don’t bend easily. MDP
is a digital signal carrying HDCP-encrypted digital audio and video data, power, as well as
a channel used for touch-panel data, USB, camera, microphone, etc.
Besides small form factor and all-in one capabilities,MDP supports
multiple displays on a single link at extremely high resolutions.
Since Steve Jobs stressed that Apple will deploy this technology across
entire lineup, many expect upcoming Mac Pro, iMac and Mac mini
refreshes, as well as 20- and 30-inch Cinema Displays, to adopt MDP as their new standard.

It
is unclear at this point if Apple will opt for DP 1.2 in desktop Macs
where space is not a factor, or if the company will in fact push MDP 1.1 exclusively across their entire product lineup. At this point, we do not know if MDP in 1.2 specification will support all of the aforementioned features in its bigger DP 1.2 counterpart. It is possible that MDP 1.2 will trade some of these nice features for its smaller footprint.

Apple watchers point to the fact that VESA
will not have published final DP 1.2 specification before mid-2009, which
leaves Apple with two options. First, the company may refresh Mac Pro
and iMac before mid-2009 with
older MDP 1.1 interconnect. However, it
would be very unlike Apple to bring tomorrow’s products with yesterday’s
technology – so we think this scenario is least likely.

The most
likely outcome is mid-year Mac Pro, iMac, Mac mini and Cinema Display
hardware upgrades, just in time for Apple’s annual developer conference. Although this means MDP 1.2 will be deployed instead of MDP 1.1, this still does not mean, as we mentioned above, that high-end features like the support for full 3D and HD video, ultra-high resolutions and up to four full HD displays on a single link, will be on the table.

Mid-year 2009 product refreshes that coincide with DP 1.2 ratification would also leave Apple with an ample time to enhance its desktop Macs with
Intel’s Core I7 processors and more powerful desktop Nvidia graphics
that supports stereoscopic 3D images. A third option is that Apple updates desktop Macs sometime before mid-year with MDP 1.2, before the standard is officialy unveiled. After all, it wouldn’t be
the first time that Apple jumps ahead of the industry.

Eagle-eyed
readers will remember that 2007 versions of Apple TV, Airport Extreme
Base Station and iMacs came with wireless 802.11n cards although the IEEE
would not ratify the standard before 2008 when, at that time, Apple simply updated
its wireless cards via software updates. That is not to say that it would
be possible to make MDP 1.1 hardware compatible with the upcoming MDP 1.2 specification just through software, as this is unlikely.

Apple’s royalty-free Mini DisplayPort will become part of the VESA-approved DisplayPort 1.2 specification scheduled for mid-2009. Although Mini DisplayPort measures at just one tenth the size of a full-sized DVI connector, it supports
multiple displays on a single link and extremely high resolutions, so it can drive the 30-inch Cinema Display HD alone. The interconnect is currently found on Apple’s updated Mac notebook lineup, but is expected to eventually make its way across Apple’s entire Mac product family.